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Sandwich Generation: Housing Options As We Age

When managing the care of an aging individual, some of the more challenging issues to understand are the options for different types of housing.  Seniors may prefer “aging in place” (i.e. staying in the family home), living with a primary family caregiver, or moving into one of a variety of retirement living options. Here is a synopsis of the more common retirement housing options available to seniors.

Staying in Your Home

“Aging in place” has become increasingly popular for many seniors.  Home is often a “safe” place to be and holds many good memories.  

Things to Consider

    • Home is familiar and comforting. In some cases, minor modifications can make home a safer place in the near term. Considerations should include steps, doorway widths, floor coverings, and grab handles.
    • Social networks have often been built around the home. Neighbors can provide familiarity as well as another set of eyes to monitor for daily routine activity such as picking up a newspaper or retrieving trash cans. 
    • Home is perceived as less costly than going into a retirement community. However, as a home ages, more things break – many homeowners don’t think about all the hidden costs of owning an older home.  There are many disreputable contractors and scam artists who prey on seniors.
    • Pets and hobbies often bias aging individuals to stay in the family home. Both are important ingredients for quality of life and should not be overlooked.
    • In-home geriatric care can be considerably more expensive in the long run than in an assisted living facility or nursing home if you require a significant number of hours of care.
    • Monitoring the health of a senior at home alone can be more difficult whether it’s a specialized diet or following a particular medication protocol.
    • Many remote emergency alert systems are available and can provide additional security and monitoring. Many systems include the ability to wear the monitor while bathing. This is key as many emergencies happen in the bath. Some systems do require a landline. 

Independent Living
The option of independent living allows the senior to live in an apartment-like setting shared with other seniors, where services and amenities such as housekeeping, social activities, dining, transportation, or security are offered.  

Things to Consider

  • Gives a feeling of independence while still offering needed services.
  • These communities provide a built-in maintenance fee for the interiors of your home.
  • Most independent living communities have organized social activities.
  • Most independent living communities do not have medical care available which can be an issue for seniors with health problems.
  • It may be more costly than staying in your home.

Assisted Living

The assisted living option is a housing alternative for those who may need help with dressing, bathing, eating, and toileting but do not require the intensive medical and nursing care provided in nursing homes.  

Things to Consider

  • This option offers the same advantages of an independent living community such as housekeeping, social activities, dining, transportation, and security.
  • Assistance with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating is offered.  
  • This option is typically more expensive than independent living
  • These communities may not offer the level of care needed for moderate dementia and other medical conditions

Nursing Home

A person is usually placed in a nursing home if they don’t need to be in a hospital but can’t be cared for at home.  

Things to Consider

  • Help with bathing, dressing, eating, drinking, and other services are given.
  • Most nursing homes have nursing aides and skilled nurses on hand 24 hours a day.
  • The cost of living in a nursing home may be prohibitive  
  • There is a potential for low standards and sub-quality care

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

A retirement community that provides lifetime care with the ability to move from independent living to nursing home care all in the same community.  

Things to Consider

  • Once you are living in the community, if one is required to move from independent living to nursing home care, the cost may remain the same.  
  • A large entrance fee is usually required with little or no money returned to the heirs.
  • There are health requirements to enter the community.
  • The financial status of the CCRC should be considered before signing any contract.  
  • Communities may attempt to discharge residents if they run out of money and are unable to pay the monthly fees.  

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